Last Updated on February 4, 2023
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Did you know that you can enjoy one of the most scenic road trips in the U.S. by driving from Tampa to Anna Maria Island? It’s one of my favorite trips in Florida to take and in this post, we’ll go over everything to know about the route and stops to make!
It’s no secret that the state of Florida is home to one of the world’s most diverse coastlines. From white sandy beaches to emerald blue water and unique wildlife, all of these things and more can be found on this unforgettable road trip.
Read the guide below to learn about the most convenient routes, available modes of transportation, and must-see sights on your journey to one of the most stunning barrier islands in the U.S.
Photo Credit- Google Maps
Distance From Tampa To Anna Maria Island
For reference, the distance from the Tampa International Airport to Anna Maria Island ranges from 53.6 to 64 miles. Average travel time by car can take an hour to an hour and 40 minutes.
This can be longer depending on the route taken, traffic flow, and stops made along the way.
How To Get From Tampa To Anna Maria Island
Driving is the most convenient and scenic way to get to Anna Maria Island from Tampa. The island has two main entry points, both by bridge, and traffic on most days is quiet or manageable, especially during low or shoulder seasons (March through December).
Driving any of the three available routes (U-275S, I-75S, or I-275S via 92 and State Road 694) will allow for more flexibility and time to explore.
By Shuttle Or Bus
If you want a chauffeur, Anna Maria Isle Transportation is a family-owned company providing services to all of Florida’s major airports.
They regularly transport visitors between Sarasota and Tampa airports via Lincoln town cars. All vehicles are operated by professional drivers and are non-smoking.
To get from Sarasota Airport to Anna Maria Island without a car, the cheapest option is to take a bus with the Sarasota County Area Transit.
Buses run regularly and usually cost less than $5. Total ride time is usually between 45 minutes to an hour.
Taking a bus the entire route, from Tampa to Anna Maria Island, is possible. However, travel time will be significantly longer due to more stops and transfers at multiple stations along the way.
Greyhound offers direct routes to the Sarasota Station daily, while local transit buses will get you from Sarasota to Anna Maria Island from Cattlemen Transfer Station.
Best Routes To Take
I-275 South. This is one of the most scenic routes to take from Tampa to Anna Maria Island.
Total drive time is an hour and 27 minutes, which might be longer — especially if you stop to take in all of the sights along the way!
I-275 South via 92 and 694. This route takes virtually the same amount of time as taking I-275S directly. However, it will yield slightly different scenery and a different beach stop along the way.
I-75 South. If you’re in a hurry, taking I-75 S and getting off near Bradenton might be the best option. This route will take an hour or less, but the scenery isn’t as fulfilling and you won’t find as many things to do.
Regardless of which route you choose, you’ll cross the Anna Maria Island Bridge via Manatee Avenue which has beautiful views at sunset!
Tolls and Fees
Many roads, bridges, and tunnels throughout the state collect toll fees. These can be paid with exact cash or with a discount using Florida’s prepaid toll program, SunPass.
If driving to Anna Maria Island from the Sarasota airport, there is a $1.50 fee for passenger cars to cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
To prepare for any toll fees on routes to Anna Maria Island, download Google Maps and look at each route individually prior to departure.
Toll roads on Google Maps are indicated within the directions using an orange caution sign next to each highway or road name.
Photo Credit- Tampa.gov
Stops and Things to Do
If You Take 275
Cypress Point Park
On your way out of Tampa, stop at Cypress Point Park. A gem of West Tampa, the park includes 35 acres full of white sand beach, walking and nature trails, and an 18-hole golf course.
The park also provides ample parking, benches, a boardwalk, restrooms, outdoor showers, and pavilions for barbecues or picnics.
Bring your bike to enjoy the .90 asphalt trail, or utilize the canoe launch for some time on the water. This is a great park to relax and take in the views of Tampa Bay.
Downtown St. Pete And St. Pete Pier
If you’re looking for some fun, you’ll find plenty of it at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg!
The 26-acre Pier District is new to the St. Petersburg area as of July 2020, and features many opportunities for fishing, swimming, dining, shopping, live entertainment, and more.
The pier itself is an enormous 3,000 feet in length, making it one of the largest in the world!
Grab lunch at one of the restaurants (Pier Teaki and Spa Beach Bistro are favorites). After lunch, walk around to take in the beauty of numerous artworks and sculptures, or explore the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center.
If you’re short on time, take a tram from the beginning of the pier all the way to the end and enjoy the view. Keep your eye out for dolphins!
Hidden in plain sight, this peaceful little beach gem is right off the road that leads to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Here, you can find hammocks for lounging, picnic tables, a restroom, and plenty of kite surfers and jet skiers.
Many locals and visitors alike come to Skyway Beach to read a book, walk their dogs, or even paddle board.
It’s also a prime spot for taking in a gorgeous sunrise or sunset if you still find yourself in St. Petersburg later in the afternoon (no judgment ⸻ there’s plenty to do there!)
Caddy’s Restaurant Bradenton
Shortly before entering Anna Maria Island, you’ll find Caddy’s Restaurant in Bradenton.
This waterfront tropical paradise on the Manatee River serves flavor-packed seafood dishes, burgers, beach-inspired frozen drinks, and no shortage of good vibes.
Every Wednesday, Caddy’s hosts their Sunset Trivia with hundreds of dollars in prizes. On the weekends, you can feel the beat with live music and plenty of great food and beverage specials.
Some popular menu items include the Grouper Sandwich, Crab Cake BLT, and Caddy’s Seafood Platter to name a few.
Photo Credit- Gandy Beach/Facebook
If you Take 92 To 694 To 275
Taking 1-275S via 92 and Florida State Road 694 will lead you to Gandy Beach rather than Cypress Point Park. It can be found on the south side of Gandy Bridge near St. Petersburg.
Bearing the nickname “Redneck Riviera” for its past party reputation, Gandy Beach is also known for a more peaceful element: mangroves.
In fact, many efforts have been made to protect the mangrove forest that grows on the beach’s western section. For this reason, alcohol consumption, camping, and beach fires are not allowed here.
Pedestrians on foot can explore the mangroves, and the beach is also dog-friendly and great for swimming and wildlife viewing. It is possible to view sting rays along with different species of sharks and birds.
Gandy Beach is also the location for the start of the annual Tampa Bay Frogman Swim, which raises funds for severely injured active-duty Navy SEALs.
Tampa To Anna Maria Island FAQ’s
What Airport Do You Fly Into For Anna Maria Island?
There are three airports that are within driving distance to Anna Maria Island if you’re flying directly from another city.
The closest airport is Sarasota International Airport (SRQ), which is 17 miles away or a 31-minute drive.
The second closest airport is Tampa International Airport (TPA), which is about an hour away. Distance in miles varies depending on the route you take. Via I-275S, Anna Maria Island is 53 miles away, and via I-75S it is 64 miles away.
The third closest airport is Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is 126 miles if driving I-75S, or 136 miles if driving I-4W. Travel time can range from two hours even to two-and-a-half hours.
How Long Does It Take To Get From Anna Maria Island To Tampa?
If you’re making the drive back to Tampa, the travel time will be about the same for each route, if not a tad shorter.
However, you should take into consideration the time of year you are traveling. January through March is the high season for Anna Maria Island, so traffic flow will be heavier than in other months throughout the year.
How Do You Spend A Day At Anna Maria Island?
Only have a day to spend on the island? Don’t worry. Due to its walkability and easy access, it’s possible to fit in most sights and activities in one day.
Below are a few must-do things that are favorited by the locals, too:
1. Lounge on a beach. For less crowds, ultra-soft sand, and beach combing, Holmes Beach is ideal.
Some even say it’s the best beach on Anna Maria Island. If you don’t mind more crowds, Manatee Beach is another great option with nearby cafes as well as showers and washrooms.
You can easily take the Anna Maria Island Trolly or the Monkey bus there.
2. Go shopping. Pine Avenue is the place to go to experience it all. Aside from great shopping (and equally great donuts), you can also visit the Historical Society Museum and the Anna Maria City Jail.
3. Try the food. Grab a lunch of fresh seafood at The Anna Maria Oyster Bar on Bridge Street.
Popular menu items include coconut shrimp, conch fritters, and of course, oysters on the half-shell!
If a picnic is more your fancy, you can also stop by the Coquina Beach Market during certain months of the year to shop for fresh produce and local cuisine!
Take your findings to nearby Coquina Beach to have lunch with an ocean view.
4. Visit the aquarium. The Mote Marine Aquarium is a great place to get up close and personal with many of Florida’s native wildlife species.
From sharks and manatees to sea turtles and fish, it’s a prime spot to learn about the state’s marine ecosystem.
Can You Drive To Anna Maria Island?
Absolutely! It’s actually the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get there.
There are two bridges across from the mainland that provide entry into the island: the Cortez Bridge and Anna Maria Island Bridge.
Once on the island, you’ll want to peruse the four main roads on Anna Maria Island: Gulf Drive, Pine Avenue, Bay Boulevard, and Manatee Avenue.
Each one is home to plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants, historical churches, parks, and more.
There are also plenty of places to park for free throughout the island including street parking and designated lots. They fill up fast, however, so getting there early is a must.
Conversely, if you don’t have a vehicle and opt to fly or take a shuttle or bus instead, you will have no problem exploring the island itself.
There are numerous modes of transportation available including the free Anna Maria Island trolley car, golf carts, bikes, or Segway tours.
The island is also very walkable, so lacing up your shoes to explore is safe and super convenient.
Final Thoughts: Tampa To Anna Maria Island
A day trip from Tampa to Anna Maria Island is a great way to spend a day relaxing by the beach. The drive is just over an hour, and you can enjoy gorgeous views of Tampa Bay along the way.
Once you arrive at Anna Maria Island, there are plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy such as swimming, kayaking, fishing, and more.
With its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere, a day trip from Tampa to Anna Maria Island is the perfect way to make a memorable getaway.
You may be interested in these related posts:
6 Best Sarasota & Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours (2023)!
The Complete Guide To Anna Maria Island Kayaking!
15 Unforgettable Things To Do In Anna Maria Island (2023)
6 Best Beaches On Anna Maria Island!
17 Best Restaurants In Anna Maria Island
Book Your Next Trip! For Accommodations and short-term rentals, I recommend Booking.com as they are the best in the business when it comes to rates and places to stay.
To Book Activities- For activities, I suggest booking with Viator, they have thousands of 5-star activities to choose from!
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